Monday, December 31, 2007

Britain: Another crooked cop

A top police scientist in charge of checking the qualifications of forensic experts has been suspended for allegedly faking his own CV. Peter Ablett, 54, vowed to expose unqualified witnesses who give misleading evidence. Now he faces the sack as boss of the Council for the Registration of Forensic Practitioners.

Mr Ablett allegedly said he graduated from Manchester University rather than the polytechnic. He is also accused of exaggerating his job title at the National Policing Improvement Agency.

Mr Ablett has been suspended on full pay. His supporters say there is a campaign to oust him and misunderstandings about his CV can be explained. One said: "There was no intention to mislead."

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Do police deserve deference?

In a comment on one of my posts regarding the tasering of Jared Massey, that prolific writer "Anonymous" raised some interesting points regarding proper conduct toward police that I think are worth addressing. I reproduce the comment in full here:

If I follow your blog correctly, we should engage police on every occasion where we don't agree with their judgement of a situation, right there on the spot. I'm not really sure how that would work. Maybe we should take the human element out if it completely and enforce the law with radar controlled cameras like they do it Germany. Then the motorist would have had no opportunity to attempt to debate instead of following a rational and safe procedure of accepting the ticket and challenging it in court, which is the correct venue for defending oneself.

From the video, it did not appear to me that the officer "out of control". It did show that the officer unfortunately and incorrectly escalated the confrontation to an unacceptable level too quickly, with little cause. He should certainly be disciplined and retrained. However, the motorist was not following his instructions and while the officer didn't handle it correctly, one doesn't want to see roadside debates with police.

Let's forget the rhetoric and deal with the situation in a rational manner. What we witnessed was a complex problem of the kind confronted by human law enforcement officers every day. The officer has to cope with the eventuality that motorists, also being human, are going to exhibit a range of behavior from docile compliance to extremely aggressive. The motorist in this situation provoked an escalation of response from the law enforcement officer and while I don't condone tasing the motorist, I also don't think comparisons with pre-2003 Iraq apply either.

I appreciate this poster sharing his/her views, since I think they effectively illustrate a view of the proper relationship between people and police officers that is fundamentally at odds with my own. The idea here seems to be that people owe some sort of deference to police officers, that we should follow their instructions without question, refrain from argument when we believe that they are mistaken and raise objections only after the fact, through "proper" channels. While the writer here doesn't explicitly say so, this view often seems based in the implicit (or sometimes explicit) premise that police are a higher sort of creature than mere civilians -- both because of the awesome responsibility they have in enforcing the law, and the danger they face in performing their duties.

Needless to say, I don't find this argument persuasive. As I've done before, I'll start by pointing to the principles laid down by Sir Robert Peel as the foundation for modern police forces. In particular, Principle Seven states:
Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Make no mistake -- the founder of modern law-enforcement believed it necessary to specify that police are just regular people who earn their keep by maintaining the peace full-time; they have no special authority.

So, if the police are just folks in blue polyester shirts, why are we supposed to obey their dictates as if they've been handed down from Mount Olympus? We argue with plumbers, doctors and store clerks when we believe that they are mistaken, even about matters within their areas of expertise. Why would we make special rules for enforcers of the laws -- especially when the consequences of their mistakes can involve such monumental matters as stiff fines and loss of liberty?

Is it because police work for the government? But every day, people argue with Motor Vehicle clerks, building inspectors and elected officials. We often consider them to be mistaken, or worse, and we call them on it. In fact, it would be hard to classify as a society as "free" if people didn't feel at liberty to call government officials nasty names.

Is it because their jobs are so dangerous? But it's not obvious that the danger of a job you voluntarily assume should automatically place your actions beyond question. Is there a sliding scale along which danger equals immunity from challenge? If so, Alaskan fishermen would have to rate a status exceeding that of papal infallibility.

But, speaking of sliding scales ... Police work is dangerous, but not exceptionally so. According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics (PDF), fishermen, lumberjacks and airplane pilots put them to shame in the macho Olympics; even taxicab drivers have a tougher time of it. So there's no real argument for granting police special status because of the supposed risks of their jobs.

But there is good reason to argue with police. Police officers are, after all, human; they make bad judgment calls, or even make decisions that might have gone one way or the other. In fact, out of necessity, much of police work involves the exercise of discretion -- to enforce a law with iron resolve, or to exercise lenience. Police can put the screws on you for violating long-forgotten statutes, or turn a blind eye to common violations of the nonsense that clutters up law books. Police can pull you over for doing 66 in a 65-MPH zone, or wave off drivers going 70. They can haul you off to jail for minor violations, or let you off with a ticket -- or a warning. Unless we replace police officers with Anonymous's "radar controlled cameras" (a move I'd oppose), police are going to continue to exercise discretion.

And the natural reaction to police officers with discretion is to attempt to influence their decisions. When cops decide one way and could have decided another, it's perfectly natural to try to change their minds, to flatter them, or to shame them. In fact, even kissing their asses can be a means of trying to influence their decisions. As a criminal justice lecturer at North Carolina Wesleyan College points out, "Citizens who show deference (good demeanor) toward police are treated more leniently... Police sympathize with and only lecture some offenders."

So, pace Anonymous, there's no good reason to afford police special treatment, and there's every reason in the world to argue with them when you think they're wrong, or that their minds can be changed. Throw in the enormous consequences of letting police wield their power unchallenged, and arguing with cops is not just understandable, it's commendable.

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(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Give many an American a hat and a badge and he becomes a goon

I have brought up the report below out of the "Comments" facility here

Here is some strange justice for you:

My 15 year old daughter was arrested last night by the Manteca Police Department in Manteca, CA and charged with petty theft. Their evidence, which I have seen, is a tape of her, gasp, putting her finger in her pants pocket. No visible merchandise is on her finger.

The security guard followed her outside where he arrested her for petty theft and took her into a locked room with just herself and two grown men, where she was searched by them repeatedly and they never found any merchandise on her person or in her possession.

Then the Manteca Police, aka The Gestapo, showed up. Again, all 3 officers were male. They also searched my daughter and found nothing. She kept requesting an attorney and they denied her one and continued with their interrogation. At one point these male officers threatened her with a strip search, to be performed by them, they claim that would be perfectly legal since there was no female officer on duty.

Then the officers and the security guard searched the area of the alleged crime, ie putting her finger in her pants, to see if she had ditched the item. They found nothing. Then they searched the area outside where the security officer approached her. Again, nothing.

Yet still they arrested her and charged her with petty theft. Common sense and the California penal code that I looked up last night indeed support the notion that to be charged with petty theft, a person actually has to take something and in the case of shoplifting they have to actually find stolen merchandise in her possession once she has left the building. Which they did not.

Pretty neat trick on the part of the Manteca Police Department. They managed in one evening to do away with the California Penal code and the constitution. I mean why let such pesky little things get in the way of making their quota for the month.

Crooked police undermine justice again

NEARLY 15 years ago, the brutal murder of three Arkansas Cub Scouts in an alleged satanic rite sickened a nation and strengthened the hand of death penalty champions across the United States. Now the same ghastly crime may be the final nail in the coffin of capital punishment in an America that is manifesting a crisis of conscience over the morality of executions.

Over the next few weeks the grim saga of the so-called West Memphis Three, teenagers who were convicted of slaughtering three small boys for kicks, is expected to reach a conclusion as a new suspect is tested and fresh DNA evidence is presented in the highest court in Arkansas. Legal experts predict that the alleged ringleader, Damien Echols, who in other more “efficient” states such as Texas would have been executed years ago, could be freed from death row by spring....

The case dates back to a warm summer night in May 1993 when the bodies of three eight-year-old boys – James Moore, Steven Branch and Christopher Byers – were found in a creek near their home. The quiet city of West Memphis went crazy with grief, with mobs pulling suspicious strangers from cars. Locals started carrying Bibles to declare themselves “normal”.

At the murder scene police asked Jerry Driver, a born-again Christian probation officer, if he had any suspects. He named Echols, a bipolar 18-year-old who, Driver believed, was a satanist because he wore a black leather coat in all weathers and listened to “devil music” such as Pink Floyd and Metallica. With public pressure growing, police questioned Echols’s friend Jessie Misskelley, a retarded 17-year-old. During 14 hours of interrogation, unprotected by parent or lawyer, the boy confessed that he, Echols and a third friend, Jason Baldwin, had met the children in the woods by accident and then stabbed and raped them for satanic purposes.

Lacking DNA evidence, weapons or a deeper motive, this statement was the cornerstone of the prosecution – even as it emerged during the trial that police had coached Misskelley with lurid details and the victims had not been stabbed but beaten and had not been sexually assaulted. The mutilations, which had inspired local newspaper stories of devil worship, were caused by snapping turtles.

The jury, gripped by the “devil curses” found in Echols’s diaries, which had been lifted from the works of the author Stephen King, took an hour to find all three guilty. Echols was sentenced to death and his two friends to life imprisonment.

At first the distraught parents were relieved, but then the case started falling to pieces – Driver was unmasked as a fraudster and a key witness admitted that she had invented everything in a deal with police for a cash reward.

The West Memphis Three case has since become a cause celebre. Two films have been made about it, Tom Waits, the rock star, and other music figures contributed to a fundraising album and Winona Ryder, the Hollywood actress, joined the campaign to free them. Just before Christmas, Natalie Maines, outspoken leader of the Dixie Chicks, the country band, addressed a 500-strong protest meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, demanding a fresh trial.

This now seems to be on the horizon. Six weeks ago Echols’s lawyer revealed that new and independent DNA tests of the murder scene not only cleared the trio but also pointed to a friend of the parents of one of the victims, who had a brutal history. The man is now being “interviewed” by West Memphis police and new hearings are “under consideration”.

Two sets of bereaved parents recently declared that they feel betrayed by police and lawyers and want an inquest. “We can only thank God that Damien Echols has survived death row,” said John Mark Byers, stepfather of Chris Byers. “Otherwise, not only would we have lost the chance of finding the truth but we, too, would have blood on our hands. And that would have been unbearable.”

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(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Is your pharmacist a pusher?

Oh great. The War on (Some) Drugs is going so swimmingly that authorities are turning their attention to the "abuse" of prescription drugs -- that is, the recreational use of drugs available only with government permission for approved uses.
"It's readily available," says Bick. "You can buy illicit, pharmaceutical drugs on any Main Street, probably in the state of Vermont, certainly in the major metropolitan areas of the state of Vermont."

But while counselors say it's the demand that's driving the supply, there's also money to be made-- pharmaceutical drugs can sell for a dollar a milligram, which means that one 80 milligram pill can be an easy $80 for a dealer. And because the Vt. State Police have seen a drop in federal funding, they plan to ask the legislature for an additional $1 million next month to help fight the growing problem.

"We have to work, not only in law enforcement, but with the treatment people, education, and really get the word out that it's run under the radar for far too long. And it's time that we all work toward this problem to address it," says L'Esperance.

Specifically, Vermont officials want to make it even more difficult for people to acquire even approved drugs for permitted uses.
Police are currently working on a measure that would stop prescription drug fraud by preventing people from filling duplicate prescriptions at different pharmacies. Officials say they are also reassigning more officers on the force to focus specifically on the prescription drug problem.

Why is it a problem that people are getting high? That's really not explained -- it's just assumed that ingesting chemicals for the purpose of feeling pleasure is an inherently bad thing that needs to be stopped. Subjecting people to police raids and sending them to prison is apparently not so bad. The fact that all such efforts at heading off recreational pharmaceutical experimentation in the past failed miserably holds no lessons for the prohibitionists -- they still see a need to tighten the screws a few notches.

Hey, how about letting people buy and use drugs as they please without making a big deal about it? Is that really such an outrageous idea? That noise you hear is the sound of prohibitionists sputtering in shock.

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(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Friday, December 28, 2007

How the American Justice System Works

If you think about it, it is inherently implausible that the state could be an effective administrator of justice, for which there is a supply and demand like any other good. Shortages, inefficiencies, arbitrariness, and underlying chaos all around are going to be inherent in the attempt. Because we are dealing here with the meting out of coercion, we can add that inhumane treatment and outright cruelty are also likely to be an inherent part of the system.

Even so, nothing had prepared me for what I witnessed in the courtroom the other day. Like a fool, I thought I might be able to beat a traffic ticket that I received a block from my home. The policeman says I slowed almost to a stop rather than completely stopped at a stop sign on a three-way stop where there were no cars in any case. So my prize was a ticket.

The officer says I'm not guilty but I have to sign this form anyway. I can challenge it on my court date. So, again foolishly, I decide not to go the route of everyone else - admit guilt and cough off - but instead decide to show up at court.

Except that on my appointed date, the judge wasn't there. Why? They wouldn't say. Is he sleeping in? No, was the answer. Taking a family vacation? Outrageous that I should even ask! Okay, then, how about I see the substitute judge? There is no such thing. But if I hadn't shown up I would go to jail for "failure to appear." How is it that he can fail to show up and everyone acts like this is normal.

Silly me. This is the state. Different rules apply to it as versus me. So I am given a new court day, 6 weeks later.

I show up again, and tell the clerk that I plan to say that I am not guilty. This moved my papers to the bottom of the stack, which is a very bad omen. I would end up sitting in the courtroom all morning, listening to some 40 cases of people who are not so foolish as to protest the judgment of the officer of the law.

But then again, it wasn't so bad. I got an education. It turns out that in a courtroom packed with criminals, not even one of the people who appeared before the judge was a danger to society. Nearly all were in for victimless crimes. The two who had perpetrated actual crimes - petty theft from Wal-Mart and the local mall - could have easily been dealt with without involving the state. So far as I could tell, the place could have been emptied out completely and our little community would have been no worse off, and massive human suffering could have been avoided.

But that's not the way it works. These people, overwhelming black and poor but dressed very nicely in the hope of impressing the master, found themselves entangled in the web and thereby elicited the glare and killer instinct of the spider. How painful it was to watch and not be able to do anything about it.

The first case turned out to be typical. This was a person picked up for "public intoxication," which amounted to over-celebrating following a football victory and daring to walk on the government's sidewalks under the influence of one too many. Arrested, jailed, bailed out. Now was the time to face the judge.

What is your plea? Guilty, your honor. What do you have to say for yourself? I'm so sorry that I did this and I won't do it again.

The judge then decides to be lenient. He gives the minimum fine plus court costs. I couldn't find any consistency in this pricing scheme, but generally it amounted to between $400 and $1,500. The judge asks the person to pay it now. When the person says that he doesn't have the money, the judge considers a payment plan, contingent on the guilty declaring his income to the courtroom, which averages $400 per month. How about you pay $100 per month? Fine.

Oh and there's one more thing. The criminal's driver's license is suspended for six months. How can he get to work? That his problem. It is a very special problem since the court has decided to loot the person of a quarter of his income during this very period. How can you keep your job? Hard to say. Life is tough. And that's the price you pay for drinking a few beers and daring to walk on the sidewalk.

So on it went for person after person. Tragedy all around. Pointless suffering. There were other victimless crimes. There were a few people who smoked pot - and one who carried a joint clip or some other drug paraphernalia in his car. There was a person who made a "false report," and I never did figure out what that was. In any case, he was dragged off to jail on the spot.

But what about the actual crimes? A lady had stuffed a package of sliced ham or something into her purse while shopping at Wal-Mart. She was fined $800 and had her license taken away. What do you have to say for yourself, asked the judge. "I'm very sorry. I need to find other ways to deal with my lack of money," she answered. Yes, you do, because "we will not tolerate theft in this town," unless, he might have added, it is done by the judge under the cover of the law.

Oh, one more thing. This lady was banned from Wal-Mart for life. Now, this sounds extreme, but it was the only decision taken that day that had the feel of something potentially reasonable. Might Wal-Mart have handed down this penalty itself? Isn't this a good principle, keeping the thieves away from its store? Makes sense, perhaps not for a lifetime but perhaps for a year or two.

But there is one problem. Wal-Mart can't do that. Its shopping space is considered under federal law to be a "public space," even though it is entirely privately owned. You can't decide who you are going to let in or out so long as you charge no membership fee. It has to accept all comers. Only the state can ban people from public property. And so Wal-Mart must use the state's services. It is coerced like everyone else. A compassionate and reasonable private solution is against the law. But keep in mind that this is a case of theft. The others: they had done no harm to anyone.

The machine continued to operate. The judge hardly looked up, not even to notice how much these nice but exceedingly poor people dressed in an attempt to impress him. They and their lives meant nothing. It was all about keeping the machine working.

Finally 11am rolls around. The court had already raised for itself about $20,000, from my calculation. The judge says that there will be a short recess before he hears the not-guilty cases, mine among them. He will then assign public defenders to those whose income is low enough and then schedule jury hearings. In other words, I would have to wait and then return at some later date.

My kids, who came with me, persuaded me that this was hopeless and ridiculous and very costly. I should declare my guilt and pay the $200 and be free. They didn't want their Dad entangled anymore in this system. This is what I did, and I was free to go and join the multitudes who put up with this system of blackmail and money extraction every hour and know better than to attempt to use the system to challenge it.

Most people in my position would have never gone to court, and thereby they will never have seen just how cruel this system is for the poor, for minorities, and for everyone who gets tangled up in this web of coercion and legalized plunder.

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(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Idaho police academy class slogan: Cause PTSD

A state police academy leader has disavowed the slogan of the most recent graduating class urging one another to "go out and cause" post-traumatic stress disorder. Each class at the Idaho Police Officer Standards and Training Academy is allowed to choose a slogan that is printed on its graduation programs, and the class of 43 graduates came up with "Don't suffer from PTSD, go out and cause it."

According to the Veterans Association, tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers suffer from PTSD, which causes nightmares, flashbacks and physical symptoms that make sufferers feel as if they are reliving trauma, even many years later. Crime, accidents and other trauma can cause it in civilians.

Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, who attended the Dec. 14 graduation, pointed out the slogan to the academy's director, Jeff Black, minutes before the ceremony began, Raney said. A photograph of the program was e-mailed anonymously to news outlets throughout the state. "That's not something we encourage or condone," Black said. "It shouldn't have been there. It was inappropriate." Black said the class president was ex-military, and that the slogan "slipped in." He declined to identify the graduate. Black said future slogans would be vetted by academy leaders.

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When are we going to stop S.W.A.T.?

Another in a long line of botched SWAT-style police raids recently went sour in Minneapolis. Bad information from a "normally-accurate" confidential informant is the current excuse from police. They were told that three guns were concealed in basement rafters, and were executing a search warrant. The homeowner, in fear for the safety of his family, fired shotgun blasts at the intruders. Thanks only to luck, nobody was killed or injured. Shotgun pellets hit officers, but they were naturally protected by body armor.

Mistakes happen to all of us, but the style and aggressiveness of SWAT raids often turns mistakes into horrifying episodes.

The Cato Institute has an interactive map and database of Botched Paramilitary Police Raids that includes 297 reports on incredibly incompetent and destructive occurrences. There is no substitute for reading about those raids, but they have many common elements.

SWAT teams and raids, originally limited to situations when police expected to face serious armed conflict, have become commonly used to serve search warrants, usually where drug activities are suspected. Most police departments are now equipped and staffed with SWAT capabilities.

Such raids often employ officers in full battle gear, often with black hoods, and they strike with little or no warning or identification. They employ flash grenades, which sometimes ignite fires or seriously stun people inside the building. They smash doors and rush in with huge bluster and noise, brandishing semi-automatic weapons, manhandling anyone they find, and often tear up the house seeking evidence. Some 47 innocent people have been killed during such raids, and another 22 non-violent offenders have been killed. 15 police officers have been killed... at least one by shots from other police. Hundreds of family members have been disabled, injured, and tragically terrified, sometimes causing cardiac arrest. Family dogs are often just shot dead. Sometimes abusive language and illegal treatment of victims occurs.

What is incomprehensible is how completely incompetent many of these raids are. Bad tips from informants, going to the wrong address or to the wrong street altogether. One gets the clear idea that these are "cowboy" raids, based on the skimpiest evidence, and carried out with no verification. Many victims are quiet or elderly citizens, and even the slightest investigation or observation would have shown them to be no threat.

Here is just one example of the absurdity involved:

In September 2005, police in Bel Aire, Kansas raid the home of the town's former mayor after mistaking sunflowers in the mayor's backyard for marijuana plants. Police took pictures of the plants, and showed them to a district attorney, who showed them to a judge. All agreed that the photographed plants were marijuana. The sunflower, incidentally, also happens to be the state flower of Kansas.

Can you imagine what it would be like? Victims have been asleep, getting out of the shower, or doing any number of normal family activities, when suddenly there is a loud crash followed by many screaming voices and an onslaught of black-clad figures rushing into your house. Victims invariably think they are being attacked by violent criminals.

I have many objections to SWAT-style raids:

1. Like so many other governmental capabilities, there was a seeming justification originally, but once in place, the capabilities remained and grew, regardless of need. Police departments work to preserve the jobs and equipment they have. SWAT raids often include the seizure of private property of all kinds, much of which will be auctioned, providing money for increasing capability.

2. SWAT teams naturally attract individual police officers who prefer combative action to other aspects of police work. That tends to give such raids more of a warlike appearance. It's obvious that minor aspects such as investigating carefully, moving carefully, or even simple surveillance are sacrificed in favor of overpowering use of force. One SWAT raid was even named "Operation Shock and Awe".

3. SWAT teams and their tactics are completely "over-the-top". They're aggressive, machismo combat tactics, used in situations that are completely inappropriate. Their tactics cause danger where there was no danger originally. Their tactics are destructive, both of people and personal property. They've taken extreme military tactics and applied them to harmless civilian situations.

4. SWAT tactics are severe violations of individual privacy. Suspects are often manhandled, mistreated, stripped, probed, cursed, ridiculed, embarrassed... and far worse if they don't meekly submit immediately.

5. By attacking suspects with SWAT tactics, raids are clearly violating the tenet of "innocent until proven guilty". Suspects, including completely innocent citizens, are often injured or killed for merely having normal reactions to an invasion of their homes.

Finally... I'm going to say what I've thought to myself for many years, which is that SWAT-style raids are cowardly. Every time a police officer is killed while on the job, we see a huge media response, followed by a massive law enforcement funeral. The officer is praised as brave and putting his "life on the line" when doing his job. Sure, sometimes, police work is dangerous, but so are many other jobs, and many are more dangerous than police work... construction work and electrical work, just to name a couple.

This is courageous, life-on-the-line police action? Not in my book. These are bully tactics that include absolutely no respect for individual rights, and are designed to make a few macho cops feel powerful. They make the Nazi Gestapo look polite. Police still use the slogan "To Serve and Protect", but it has come to mean serve and protect themselves, at the expense of the rest of us.

If you still think I'm exaggerating, go read some of the reports.

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(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

They made an offer he couldn't refuse

One of the great legal tragedies in recent years has been the subtle, often blatant, reversal of the burden of proof which power hungry politicians have pushed through. Burden of proof in criminal cases means you are not required to prove your innocence but that the state has to prove your guilt. Well, that along with numerous constitutional rights, has been jettisoned by the bipartisan war on liberty that has been going on for decades.

A blatant case of this is Luther Ricks Sr. and his wife Meredith, both worked at Ohio Steel Foundry. They never had a bank account. They kept a safe in the house and all their savings were deposited in the safe. Over a lifetime, between them, they saved around $400,000.

In June two men broke into the Ricks home and found Ricks and his son there. The men attacked. Ricks’ son was stabbed. Ricks managed to get free of the men and grabbed a gun he had for protection. He shot the one man killing him. Then he made a mistake. He called the police.

The police arrived on the scene to investigate. They searched the house and discovered a small amount of marijuana which Ricks says he uses periodically due to pain brought on my arthritis, shingles and hip replacement that he had. In the end no criminal charges were filed against him. The shooting was clearly self defense and the amount of pot was so trivial that it wasn’t worth worrying about (as if any amount is). But the presence of even a minute amount of pot means the police can act in criminal ways. I say criminal not because it violates the law but because it violates the rights of others.

The police had Ricks open his safe and they emptied out his life savings and walked off with it. Under the draconian, authoritarian asset forfeiture laws the police can claim that funds are the result of criminal activity. Presumably they will argue the presence of a tiny amount of pot is sufficient grounds to claim Ricks was involved with a criminal conspiracy.

The police are not required to prove it. They need not bring any charges against Mr. Ricks. They don’t have to any substantial evidence except their say so. At this point the law says to Ricks that he is required to prove that every dollar he saved was earned legitimately. Can he do it? Not likely? Who would be able to.

Ricks could show that he’s earned far more than was confiscated and so did his wife. But that doesn’t mean the money he earned and the money in the safe is the same money. In essence he will never be able to prove that the funds were honestly earned. Consider the cash in your wallet for a second. Can you provide a paper trail showing precisely where it came from?

If you kept a receipt when you cash your paycheck would that work? Not really. It might show you got $1000 and maybe you have $500 in your pocket. But couldn’t you have also have spent $2000 and have earned $1500 illegally? It’s possible. The $500 you have left could be change from illegal activities not change from legal ones. And you can’t prove otherwise.

Under asset forfeiture the police are encouraged to become common thieves. What they steal they normally get to keep for their own budget and that can mean nice pay increases for the thugs in uniform. Of course sometimes bigger thieves come along and that is what happened here. The feds got involved. The FBI showed up and claimed the money for themselves.

So the Lima, Ohio police had to give the $400,000 they stole to the big boys from The Feds gang. Of course the Limo cops can fight for the money. But what is unlikely is that Mr. Ricks will ever get his life savings back. He’d like to hire an attorney but the cops walked off with all his savings.

Now remember why we have government. It is there to protect us from criminals who would violate our lives, liberty or property. The only problem is that criminals these days are downright kind compared to The Feds. Now and then I remind myself that I was once mugged. And that is supposed to remind me that having government there to protect us is such a good idea.

The only problem is that when I compare being robbed to being governed I keep finding robbery to be the better deal. The muggers don’t come around as often. They don’t take as much. And they don’t try to persuade me that they are doing it for my own good. In the case of Mr. Ricks it was pretty much the same thing. He was attacked by robbers and he defended himself. Then his “protectors” protected him out of his life savings and there isn’t a hell of a lot he can do about it. The gang that has the money is far too big and powerful. And if he protests too loudly they will start calling his home a “compound” and eventually it will come to a tragic end.

Report here

Only one year for British yob who 'killed father with single punch and then celebrated as if he'd scored a goal'

A drunken thug who killed a father of three with a single punch - then celebrated "as if he had scored a goal" - has been jailed for just three years. Jeffrey Gosling, 20, could be free in time for next Christmas. His victim Billy Fellows, 51, had just finished working at a social club he ran when Gosling launched a totally unprovoked attack shortly after midnight on August 25. Mr Fellows was knocked down and suffered multiple skull fractures when his head hit the pavement.

As he lay dying, Gosling raised his arms and began jumping in triumph, "as if he had scored a goal", before running off, a court was told. Though he was sentenced to three years after pleading guilty to manslaughter, the term will be reduced by the 166 days he has spent in custody on remand, making him eligible for release in a year.

His victim's widow, Marian, 53, was yesterday preparing for Christmas without her husband of 27 years at the family home in Wallsend, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She has described him as "a big man with a big heart, who loved life". "He would do anything for anyone, they just had to call," she said. "He had completed the Great North Run 26 times and raised money for a number of charities. "I spoke to him by phone at around 9pm the night he died and he was his usual happy self. We lost a loving husband, a father and friend in a needless act of violence."

Mr Fellows, a 51-year-old electrical engineer, had inherited the Archer Street Social Club in Wallsend from his father. On the night he died he was offered a lift home by the club manager, but said he preferred to walk to enjoy the fresh air, Newcastle Crown Court was told. Within minutes he was approached by Gosling, who had drunk at least six pints of lager, and a friend who has not been identified. They were shouting and trying to provoke him.

Mr Fellows turned away in an attempt to avoid trouble, but Gosling ran after him and punched him on the jaw, the court was told. Penny Moreland, prosecuting, said: "Witnesses describe Gosling dancing across the road, his arms up in jubilation, before running away. "One described him as behaving as if he had scored a goal. None of the witnesses describe Mr Fellows as showing aggressive behaviour or indeed any resistance at all." Mr Fellows, who had three children aged 18, 20 and 25, died in hospital soon afterwards.

Defending Gosling, also from Wallsend, Jamie Adams said he had acted completely out of character after "misreading" the situation. "He never intended to kill or cause serious harm to Mr Fellows," Mr Adams told the court. "He is utterly remorseful. He and his family are deeply conscious of the distress he has brought about. "He is not ordinarily a callous young man. Those who know him describe him as mild-mannered, polite and gentle."

Sending Gosling to a young offenders' institution, Judge David Hodson said no sentence could ever compensate Mr Fellows's family for their devastating loss. But he said he accepted Gosling had not intended to kill or cause serious injury to the victim and had shown genuine remorse for what he had done. He told Gosling: "Mr Fellows didn't respond in any way whatever to what you were doing and the episode appears to have come to an end. "Inexplicably you then turned round, ran back towards Mr Fellows and attacked him from behind."

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Texas police required to be goons

Ramon Perez was a rookie police officer in Austin, Texas when he responded to a domestic violence report in January 2005. When he arrived at the address, he was greeted by a distraught woman who claimed that her elderly husband had pushed her down the stairs, leaving her with injured arms.

As he interviewed the alleged victim, the alleged assailant, an elderly man apparently in frail health, emerged from the home carrying car keys and a cup of coffee. Perez, who had called for backup, told the man to stop. As he did the backup officer, Robert Paranich “lunged” at the elderly man, nearly knocking him off his feet.

“I considered that an escalation of force,” Perez later recalled.

With the suspect struggling to regain his balance, Paranich yelled at Perez to use his Taser to subdue the elderly man. To his considerable credit, Perez refused to do so, chiefly because the man wasn't resisting arrest, but also because the rookie officer was concerned that the man was so frail the electroshock device could send him into cardiac arrest.

Those considerations, incidentally, are spelled out in the Austin Police Department's Taser policy, which Perez followed exactly. In the event, Perez and Paranich were able to effect the arrest using “soft-hand” tactics. When it's possible to arrest a suspect without resort to violence, Perez later said, doing so is “the constitutionally correct thing.”

A few days after this incident, Perez received what he and his attorney Derek Howard describe as a punitive transfer to the night shift. Two months later, Perez was questioned at length about the January arrest, as well as a second incident in which he acted with unauthorized fastidiousness about constitutional correctness.

He was told to report to APD psychologist Carol Logan to undergo what was described as a session of “word games” to develop better communication skills with his superiors. Perez was not told that the interview would be a "fit-for-duty review" held to facilitate the pre-ordained decision to fire him.

According to the Austin Chronicle, Logan confirmed that Perez had been told the meeting would focus on “word games.” However, her four page report mentions nothing about that exercise; instead, it focuses “entirely on Perez's moral and religious beliefs, which Logan concludes are so strong they are an `impairment' to his ability to be a police officer.”

Perez is a self-described non-denominational fundamentalist Christian, an ordained minister who home-schools his children. This, according to Logan, produces an “impairment” of his ability to absorb new facts, to communicate with his superiors, and to deal with “feedback.”

“Perez has a well-developed set of personal beliefs,” wrote Logan. “These seem to be based primarily on his religious beliefs and it is obvious that he has spent a lot of time reflecting upon and developing these views.”

While Logan, displaying the reflexive condescension of a career servant of the Regime, describes Perez's convictions as “admirable,” she criticizes him for displaying “defensiveness” when his convictions are challenged. The firmness of Perez's moral beliefs is problematic, she concludes, because they “provide him with a rationale for explaining how his views differ with others.”

Boil down Logan's assessment in a saucepan, and here's the residue: Perez was unsuitable to serve as a police officer because his values transcend the authority of the State, and his moral convictions have immunized him against collectivist thinking.

It should be noted that Perez was also troublesome because, unlike most newly minted law enforcement officers, he had two decades of adult life in the rear-view mirror before beginning his police career. He was a 41-year-old ex-engineer when he graduated from the academy, and his fellow cadets honored him with the Ernie Hinckle Humanitarian Award for compassion, integrity, and leadership on the strength of the character he had displayed.

A month after the psychologist – who actually functions as what the Soviets called a Zampolit, or “political officer” -- rendered her assessment, Perez was given an ultimatum: He could resign from the APD and keep his peace officer's license, or be fired and lose that license, and thus be left unemployable by any other department. Perez chose the first course, while fighting with the Austin City government for a year to see the report that had led to his firing.

The triggering incident was his refusal to use a Taser on an unresisting elderly suspect; this episode revealed that Perez -- who would appear to be an exemplary officer, a throwback to an era when police were peace officers, rather than heavily armed enforcers of the State's decrees – was not morally ductile. He was fired for disobeying an order from a superior that was unconstitutional and illegal by the department's own standards.

The official explanation is that Perez was fired for being a “substandard cop.” Perez's attorney, Derek Howard, offers a more credible assessment: “He didn't fit in because of his religious belief system.”

“It was concluded that my [morality] justified it [the decision to disobey], when in fact it was my commitment to policy and our training at the academy and the U.S. Constitution, and not necessarily my moral, spiritual foundation, that led me to that decision,” explained Perez at a press conference earlier this month. “Being tough is a good thing. Being tough, as a cop, can save your life or someone else's. But when that toughness crosses over into civil liberties, that's where a line needs to be drawn... and for some officers, that's a gray area.”

Like Molech and other omnivorous pagan idols sustained by lethal violence, the Regime under which we live is a very jealous god: It requires unqualified, instantaneous obedience, particularly from those in the business of enforcing its decrees.

Perez, like any Christian worthy of that designation, will render to Caesar only that to which Caesar is due – which in our system means only the power necessary to protect the lives and property of the innocent. Or, as he put it: "I do believe, if you are a police officer, you have an ordination by God to protect and preserve life." All of this resonates with the actual meaning of the much-misapplied verses in Romans chapter 13 that are often wrested by those preaching unconditional submission to State power.

So now Perez is out of a job, and Austin's branch of the Leviathan Force will fill his slot with someone willing to adapt to the Regime's priorities. In simple terms, this means it will find someone willing to shoot an unresisting elderly suspect, at point-blank range, with a Taser.

This is not the only time I've heard of a police department using psychological testing to weed out police recruits whose Christian convictions make them unsuitable to serve the Regime.

A few months ago a former professional associate of mine described how his son, who applied for a position with a Sheriff's Department in Wisconsin, was rejected after he was made to play similar “word games” with a psychologist. Despite scoring well on every evaluation, this young man was deemed unworthy to work as a deputy sheriff because of his inflexible moral views and impatience with arbitrary bureaucratic policies.

One such incident could be an anomaly, and a second a mere coincidence. Three or more, however, constitute a trend. I'm confident that a third episode of this variety could be found with relatively little effort.

Report here

Australia: Police 'hindered' investigation of racist assault

To protect one of their own

An off-duty policeman deliberately hindered the investigation of an attack on a Jewish man in Balaclava last year, a statement by a fellow officer implies. The statement, by a St Kilda policewoman, was yesterday described as "the smoking gun" by Menachem Vorchheimer, the man abused and punched in the face by drunken Ocean Grove footballers travelling home in a minibus from a day at the Caulfield races in October last year. The statement was obtained from the Office of Public Prosecutions after freedom of information requests over several months were denied by police.

In another development, two versions of a statement by a witness who came to Mr Vorchheimer's aid have been viewed by The Sunday Age - showing that the original was edited to remove material suggesting the off-duty policeman tried to take offenders from the scene before police arrived. Leon Yuhanov, the passer-by who blocked the minibus with his car when he saw Mr Vorchheimer being attacked, said that the bus driver, off-duty policeman Terrence Moore, told him: "Don't be a fool; don't call the cops, you idiot." But these words were removed from the original statement made by Mr Yuhanov. Mr Yuhanov was unaware his statement had been altered until he was shown both versions by The Sunday Age last Thursday.

The deletions clearly cast Senior Constable Moore in a better light. The police statement naming Senior Constable Moore was written by Constable Karli Hawkins shortly after the assault on October 14 last year. Constable Hawkins was one of several police called to the scene in Carlisle Street after Mr Vorchheimer clashed with the footballers, who yelled anti-Jewish abuse as they passed in the minibus. Her statement says that Senior Constable Moore, on hearing Mr Vorchheimer say that a man wearing a pink tie had punched him, had immediately reboarded the bus and spoken to his passengers, mostly Ocean Grove footballers. The passengers had immediately removed their ties, she stated. This meant Mr Vorchheimer could not identify with certainty who had hit him.

Mr Vorchheimer, dressed that day in traditional clothes for the Jewish Sabbath and pushing two of his young children in a pram, had been punched in the eye and had his hat and skullcap snatched while remonstrating with the footballers over the racial abuse. Several witnesses said they had seen and heard the footballers abusing Orthodox Jews in the street.

Mr Vorchheimer's brother, David, last week obtained Constable Hawkins' statement from the Office of Public Prosecutions after being denied it by police despite many FOI requests.

Mr Yuhanov, 25, an Elwood IT consultant, was at traffic lights at the corner of Hotham and Carlisle streets when he saw the footballers shouting anti-Jewish abuse at a group of Orthodox Jewish boys crossing the road. He saw Menachem Vorchheimer remonstrate with the bus driver and passengers and saw one of the men snatch his Sabbath hat and skullcap. Mr Yuhanov pulled his car in front of the bus to prevent it leaving the scene before police arrived. He also asked the driver to get the passengers to return the hat. Mr Vorchheimer, who had a bloodied left eye, asked him to call police. Mr Yuhanov states he was then abused by the bus driver, who made remarks such as: "Don't be a fool; don't call the cops, you idiot." In the meantime, he said, the driver attempted to drive the bus onto the kerb to escape.

Mr Yuhanov later wrote his account of the incident for the police officer in charge of the investigation. He quoted the driver's remarks about not calling the police and his attempt to drive onto the kerb. He emailed this statement to the station, and the investigating officer emailed back a "tidied" version on a police form. At that stage, the "Don't call the cops" remarks were still in it.

In December, Mr Yuhanov was asked to sign a copy of his statement at St Kilda Police Station. At the time he did not realise that the statement had been shortened by several paragraphs. Among the deletions were details of the driver's behaviour - including the "Don't call the cops" comments and the driver's attempts to drive onto the kerb to leave the scene. "I should have looked at the statement more closely," Mr Yuhanov told The Sunday Age. "I am not happy about it. But I never thought to doubt the police."

Mr Vorchheimer and his family are now living in New York. No one was convicted over the punch that bloodied his eye. In April, one man was convicted of using insulting words and last month two men were fined for offensive behaviour and using insulting words. The court was told that an unidentified attacker had "smacked" Mr Vorchheimer in the face with a fist.

Speaking from New York on Friday, Mr Vorchheimer said Mr Moore had prevented him from identifying his attacker. "The tie was the central piece of evidence. In my mind, when I was grabbed and punched, this is what I mentally focused on to remember the perpetrator. Had the ties been on the boys, the positive ID would have been made," he said.

Senior Constable Moore said he could not comment. A Victoria Police spokesman said the ethical standards department had investigated Senior Constable Moore's behaviour and he faced internal disciplinary charges for taking an unauthorised second job. [But no charges for attempting to obstruct the course of justice??? He should have been fired!]

Source (Via Australian Politics)

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Monday, December 24, 2007

The lawless Utah highway patrol

The suspense was hardly unbearable when the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) announced that it would “review” the criminal assault committed by Trooper Jon Gardner last September 14, when he attacked Jared Massey – an agitated motorist whose behavior was non-threatening – with a Taser. A “review” of this kind is almost always an exercise in ratifying the illegal use of force by a police officer. The UHP performed as expected, announcing at a press conference yesterday (November 30) that Gardner's attack was “lawful and justified under the circumstances” -- despite the fact that the department's policy does not authorize the use of a Taser against someone who does not pose a threat.

The now-notorious video of the incident demonstrates beyond dispute that Massey posed no actual or potential threat to Gardner. The video record also shows that it was Gardner who needlessly escalated the encounter by ordering the driver from the vehicle, rather than handing him the unsigned ticket and scurrying off to wherever it is that malodorous revenue farmers like himself go after committing their acts of highway robbery.

Massey, who had admitted to driving 68 miles per hour in what he thought was a 65 mph zone, believed that Gardner was inviting him out of the car to show him a sign announcing the beginning of a 40 mph construction zone. Gardner apparently ordered Massey from the car for the purpose of arresting him for refusing to sign the citation, which isn't a crime since in Utah a signature is unnecessary.

(Here's something else to consider. Go back and look at the opening seconds of that video; notice how Officer Gardner pulled to the side of the road directly in front of the 40 MPH sign just before Massey passed him. It's clear to me that by doing so Gardner most likely obstructed Massey's view of the sign. At the very least, he would have distracted the driver, whose logical reaction would have been to pay attention to the UHP patrol car rather than the speed limit sign. I'm cynical enough to suspect that this is one of the oh-so-clever tricks patrolmen sometimes pull in order to pull in revenue.)

No citizen has the legal, let alone moral, obligation to submit to an unwarranted arrest. And no police officer has the legal, let alone moral, authority to use a Taser to punish a citizen for displaying a bad attitude. The Taser is supposedly a non-lethal weapon; it can – and has – served that role by immobilizing violent suspects without killing them or putting bystanders at risk. However, a better description of that device as typically used would be: “Frequently lethal instrument of torture” -- at least as it's being employed by police departments that routinely ignore guidelines supposedly intended to prevent it from being used as a means of “pain compliance.”

The only reason Gardner's attack came under review (however perfunctory) by the UHP was the global furor that erupted when Massey posted the video on YouTube. Now Gardner is in hiding, cringing and terrified by random acts of blogosphere bluster and the occasional threatening telephone call. To his considerable credit, Massey has condemned the threats and urged people to leave Gardner alone. In this we see a useful contrast between Massey, who displays the character of a principled adult man, and the swaggering tax-supported adolescent bully who attacked him and now cowers behind the Big Brown Wall thrown up by his fellow brown-shirts of the UHP. Does Gardner fear for his life? I certainly hope so, even as I pray that those fears prove to be unwarranted. The least we can hope for is that bullies occasionally know the visceral fear of the hunted.

In urging the public to lay off Gardner, Jared Massey points out that the State Trooper has a family. So does Massey, of course – a small child and a pregnant wife, both of whom saw him brutally attacked and needlessly humiliated. The pregnant wife was also threatened with arrest for the supposed crime of coming to Massey's aid.

At this point in our nation's descent into unalloyed tyranny, those responsible for inflicting needless violence on the citizenry need to be intimidated. They need to suffer the sting of disrepute, the cold loneliness of ostracism, the gut-churning and sleep-dispelling unease that comes from wondering if there will be retaliation for their acts of officially sanctioned violence. This is particularly true in cases of this kind in which the government isn't willing to punish such conduct.

In a qualified defense of Officer Gardner, the Provo Daily Herald – which has taken a seriously statist turn since I wrote for it a decade and a half ago – made an ironically useful point when it criticized Massey for being “argumentative ... and rather dense about some obvious social mores.” “Here's a tip: when a uniformed man with a badge and a gun tells you to do something, shut up and do exactly what he says,” opined the Herald, a newspaper that serves the reddest community in Red-State America, and expressing the defining sentiment of what Lew Rockwell calls “Red-State Fascism.”

The Herald editorial collective elaborated: “On the video, we don't see him [Massey] threatening the officer or getting out of control. But still, the officer has a badge and a gun -- and also a rule book. You can cooperate with the cops and save yourself a lot of trouble, or you can make them go by the book, as Massey apparently did without introspection. We have sympathy for law officers making traffic stops. They can turn deadly fast. Cops should not be hampered by excessive rules or second-guessing. They need the freedom to respond to each unique situation, within reason.”

The problem here, as noted above, is that Massey didn't force Gardner to “go by the book”; the “book” in this case dictated that Gardner simply hand Massey the ticket and walk away, and it certainly didn't authorize the use of a Taser in this situation. What is really interesting here is that in correctly describing a traffic stop as a situation that can “turn deadly fast,” the Herald reserved its sympathy and concern for the heavily-armed State agent – not the unarmed citizen. This is a question of “social mores,” the paper instructs us.

It is those “mores” that must change, and soon. It is the citizen who is owed reflexive deference, not the agent of the State. Even today, many police officers remember that principle and comport themselves accordingly. But when the not-so-exceptional exception occurs, the institutional bias of nearly every police agency is to defend those officers whose behavior is clearly illegal -- while quietly dismissing criminal charges, such as “resisting arrest” or “obstruction,” that result when a citizen makes a futile effort to defend himself.

Report here

Who Watches the Watchman ?

Report from New Zealand, where justice is too often "an orchestrated litany of lies" -- unless you are "one of the boys", of course. The one safety valve in a corrupt system was the right of appeal to the Privy Council in London but that has now been shut off. See here for original of the post below

Recently a NZ Court let a man go free even though he had confessed on video to the murder of a woman. The judge blocked the video evidence because police had 'failed to read him his rights'.

If I go fishing at the local stream and a fishing ranger appears to inform me I am breaking the law I will find myself in Court charged with poaching. And even if I genuinely claim I didn’t know that stream was out of season the judge will reject that plea and simply remind me it is my duty to know the law.

A few years back Kiwi millionaire Sir Bob Jones faced a claim he failed to tell fellow shareholders he was selling his enormous holding of shares in the public company that bore his name. Bob claimed he didn’t know about the substantial shareholders obligation of having to inform the stock exchange/public about selling out. So how did Bob get on in Court ? The judge accepted Bob's claim he didn't know the law and let him off lightly even though courts say ignorance of the law is no excuse. In the Jones case claiming ignorance was bliss and rewarding. Many thought the smoking gun was the fact during the months Jones was selling he was telling everyone the price was so low he was thinking of doing a takeover bid. Those comments had the market excited long enough for Bob to sell.

When I was the second largest shareholder of Australian public company Baden Pacific, even though I was only 26 I knew the rules of substantial shareholder obligations.

So what's going on ?

For years the legal system has rejected appeals for the law to blend in more closely with public policy considerations. They claim the system is the best we have got. Bullshit !

A murderer who confessors on tape of his own free will is still guilty to everyone except those managers of our law. So why does a court let a guilty man go on the basis he didn't get his rights read to him when all of society know the rule on right to silence ?

The judge accepted Bob Jones didn’t know the law. Yet any of us who know Bob, know he has a huge private library at his Lower Hutt home bigger than many public libraries. And we all know Bob is bright, just read his books and listen to him talk. He would know more about company law than I would know about a stream closed for fishing. Yet I would be guilty on the basis that ignorance is no excuse.

You begin to see the inconsistency. This is just the surface of the problem.

I have been dealing with public policy, governments, legislation, law, politicians, lawyers and judges for many years. My resume is from the streets and slums to the boardrooms of some of the worlds most successful companies private and public. My dealings with governments around the world to companies like IMG, GPG, Elbex, Brierley Investments and Kanematsu Japan I have seen it all.I was even in Washington DC during preparation of Desert Storm. So I think I know a scam when I see one.

Some think my battle over Arklow is about me getting a payout. Let me put this in writing - "this is not about the money".

This is about the biggest problem facing the human race today;

Who watches the watchman ?

At 22 I was a keen volunteer secretary for the New Settlers Federation. My job was to assist putting a submission together and help present that to the Senate Standing Committee for a Bill of Rights for the Australian Constitution. Back then I came to realise many lawyers and judges hate the notion of people having a Bill of Rights. They control the rights. In New Zealand where we do have a Bill of Rights the promises they make are mostly baseless. And as the years have passed me by with eyes wide open I have seen why. They want to call the shots to suit them and their friends.

Maybe a Solution

Given the recent news of politicians are attempting to erode more rights I thought this was an issue we need to put to the New Zealand people;

Government having the right to end people's appeal, versus a jury that could provide relief for Government/Crown/Judicial employee negligence, incompetence or even corruption *

* I note the growing trend of organizations being subject to legislation to stop them deciding the conduct of their own members. The argument that wins the legislation is the conflict of interest is too great to allow self regulation, a task to be controlled by others outside the circle of self interest.

There is a common problem with democracy and dictatorships- they make and call the final answer- there is no appeal, they rule. In all third world countries the people really suffer while at the same time their leaders live it up around the world in 5 star luxury. They get the power and forget the obligation to look after the people.

The problem is worldwide. Government after all is a trust entity working on our behalf, but somehow they never seem to represent us. And when they mess up we all pay while they retire in luxury.

In Arklow vs Maclean if there was an absence of fraud and serious judicial negligence I would have walked away from that long ago. But the unanswerable negligence began with Greig J and finished with Henry J in the Privy Council. No one has been able to explain the facts as found by Temm J being changed by the AC and PC. Or the law being quoted belonging to another type of relationship. I really want to know but the problem with the legal system reality is if you speak up you are out of the club forever.

Our justice system claims expertise and a professional service and that is the only thing I have ever been asking for. We can sue others for non-performance, so why can't we get the courts to account ? What we have is not good enough.

I didn't invest $5.5m, lose my family's home and my business just to wonder off and think about how better off I am with the lesson. To walk away would be the waste. These dictators need sorting out to make room for the better managers.

Last year Sir Peter Tapsell and Professor Frank Brosnahan came over to visit me. "Move on and learn from your lessons" both advised. They being among my closest friends I thought again about what I had learnt. But it just reaffirmed the problem I need to help fix.

We don't have enough safety valves in place to control those we allow to manage our societies.

The fact our Crown/ Government leaders don't give a dam about Arklow vs Maclean is the same issue as all the other problems they have caused and walked away from throughout history. Leaders have been doing it for thousands of years and being the entrepreneur, that is the problem I am attempting to address. And Arklow is just another example.

McGechan J's Judgment in Securities Commission v R E Jones

McGechan J had the opportunity to consider further the provisions of Part II when he heard one of the most highly publicised corporate trials in recent years. The Securities Commission applied for the forfeiture of 40 million shares held by Sir Robert Jones and his interests in Robt Jones Investments Ltd ("RJI"). A significant difference between this case and other previous cases is that this was the first to deal with the non-disclosure of the sale of voting securities in a public issue, rather than the non-disclosure of the purchase of voting securities. A further difference is that there was little or no dispute as to who held relevant interests in the voting securities and as to when they were sold. As McGechan J pointed out in his judgment his role was to consider "a claim arising from [the] failure to file certain statutory notices" and it was not to consider the "general commercial morality" of RJI. In essence the decision was about the quantum of the penalty to be imposed, rather than whether or not there had been a transgression of Part II of the Act.

The claim in this case was based on the failure to file some eleven notices required under section 21 of the Act. McGechan J described the Securities Commission's claim in this case as "one of [a] secret selldown by Sir Robert's interests, and within that certain other unacceptable commercial activity, both facilitated by absence of s 21 1% notices". The Securities Commission claimed that there was a deliberate decision on the part of Sir Robert Jones and other executives of the companies involved not to file the notices required under Part II in order to facilitate a number of transactions for the benefit of Sir Robert Jones, and (in some instances) RJI. McGechan J found that Sir Robert Jones was not aware of the "1% rule", although other executives involved in RJI clearly were. McGechan J was even prepared to go so far as to say that had Sir Robert been aware of the rule "he would have given notice in respect of all transactions now impugned". However, he found that the omission to file the required notices was deliberate on the part of some of the executives of RJI.

McGechan J discussed the issue of the standard of proof required under Part II. He noted that all that was required to establish "the essential ingredients of 1% shift and absence of notice" was a reasonable ground to suspect. However, there was no indication as to "'how well' associated aggravating or mitigating factors, going beyond essential ingredients, should be proved''. While Heron J had taken the approach in the Honor Friend decision of requiring the normal civil standard in relation to these elements, McGechan J decided that the correct approach was to allow proof of both aggravating and mitigating circumstances on the lower standard of "reasonable grounds to suspect" since this approach recognised the difficulties of proof faced by the Securities Commission in this area. For McGechan J the dangers inherent in relying upon such lower standards were to be controlled by the Court's discretion in granting a remedy. In his view, where the Securities Commission was only able to rely upon "reasonable grounds to suspect", "a Court will be so much slower, and in appropriate cases quite unwilling, to act in any draconian fashion as by forfeiture". While he had earlier commented that Parliament did not appear to have turned its attention to a question of the standard of proof in relation to mitigating and aggravating circumstances, McGechan J went on to find that Parliament would have been content to leave the Court to determine the appropriate remedies "in an expectation Courts would act cautiously and sensibly, given lower-grade proof along with all other circumstances." In any event he stated that he had considered all the significant matters at "the higher level of balance of probability."

Having discussed what was the standard required under Part II, and having discussed his findings on the facts, McGechan J considered the question of relief. In terms of general principles he noted that the legislature had opted not to provide for criminal sanctions but rather to rely upon civil relief. In his view Part II provided not only a compensatory regime since the civil sanctions "could be severe in the extreme" and the legislature clearly envisaged some transgressions that warranted "strong and punitive responses". Coupled with these aspects of relief was the issue of deterrence. As McGechan J noted, the provision of information which was late could serve little purpose. Consequently it was important to prevent an impression that compliance with Part II was not necessary.

Having set out the underlying principles of the relief available under Part II McGechan J attempted to balance the various principles. While relief could be compensatory it appeared preferable in his view that: a truly compensatory approach be ... left for individual proceedings by those injured eg for insider trading, where losses can be more precisely measured and allocated. There should he no blind principle that remedy (sic) is to be governed by amount of loss, or gain, or the resources of the defendant.

In relation to the punitive and deterrent elements he was concerned that the remedy should be a measured one and that the circumstances such as "knowledge and ignorance; defiance and oversight; major and minor share volumes; frequent and rare occurrence; significant and minor consequences" should be borne in mind.McGechan J also pointed out sections 6 and 21 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 as being relevant elements "pointing to construction against 'unreasonable' seizure of property''.

In applying these general principles to the facts before him he emphasised that it should be clearly signalled to the market that Part II had to be strictly observed. In his view, the signal to be sent was through the damage done to personal and corporate reputation if notice was not given and by financial penalties. As this particular trial was so well publicised the first had been met. In relation to the second McGechan set out those features which pointed towards moderation and those which pointed towards rigour.

In his view moderation was called for as Sir Robert had been ignorant of the requirements of the "1% rule", the persons who knew of the rule had failed to understand the seriousness of non-compliance, and, although the property transaction with 85 The Terrace caused increased losses to RJI and to some shareholders, Sir Robert was not the cause of the end of the property market boom nor the corresponding decline in RJI's price. In addition, Sir Robert had himself lost millions in the general decline. On the other hand, there had been a deliberate decision by executives administering his interests not to file notices, and a number of the transactions were facilitated by non compliance with Part II (which in his view was of particular concern)

Having considered these factors McGechan J finally decided that he would order forfeiture of 6 million shares out of the 40 million then held by Sir Robert Jones and his interests. His reasoning for this was that, while in theory a forfeiture operated to compensate the remaining shareholders, in this case as the capital structure of RJI was considerable there would be little benefit in the forfeiture. By contrast, in his view, forfeiture could work to the disadvantage of former (or existing) shareholders who contemplated other compensatory proceedings since it would reduce the judgment pool potentially available.

A further issue that McGechan J dealt with was the question of costs. Like Heron J he did not agree with a special regime of solicitor and client costs and he openly expressed a concern that "indemnity for costs [could] encourage excessive regulatory zeal". This comment seems in marked contrast to his view in the Gulf judgment that the Securities Commission had a "statutory duty" to bring such an action. In any event he was prepared to award "very substantial party and party costs and disbursements" on the basis that there was "no reason why a defendant found liable should not make a substantial reimbursement to the taxpayer for costs of regulatory proceedings [which] he has rendered necessary". He stated that the level of costs awarded "should enter as a factor into the overall remedy considerations". In fact the costs awarded ($200,000 and up to $50,000 for disbursements) were approximately half the estimated value of the forfeited shares. However, no indication was given as to the solicitor and client costs and the actual level of disbursements incurred by the Securities Commission.

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Britain: Must not punish an outspoken lesbian

The whole "go easy" over this atrocious case was about protecting Cressida Dickless and her lack of judgment

The officer in charge of the bungled surveillance operation that ended with an innocent man being shot dead on the London Underground will not be disciplined, the police watchdog said yesterday. The Independent Police Complaints Commission said that the mistakes made by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick and three senior Scotland Yard officers on the day that Jean Charles de Menezes was shot did not amount to personal misconduct.

Mr de Menezes's family called the IPCC's decision "a scandal". But the IPCC said that its decision reflected the view of the Old Bailey jury, which convicted the Metropolitan Police of endangering the public during the operation, that Ms Dick was not personally culpable. Mr de Menezes, 27, a Brazilian electrician, was killed when he was mistaken for a suicide bomber on July 22, 2005. He was shot seven times in the head at point-blank range by two firearms officers using dum-dum bullets.

A spokesman for the IPCC said: "The health and safety trial verdict made it clear that mistakes were made that could have been avoided. The issue considered by the IPCC was whether those mistakes amounted to personal misconduct." All disciplinary reviews in the Stockwell case have now been concluded.

Vivian Figuierdo, a cousin of the dead man, said: "Sadly we have come to expect this from the IPCC - if the jury found the police guilty of catastrophic errors, why is it that no officer is being held individually accountable?"

Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said that despite the controversy over the shooting he never felt that he should resign. He said: "In terms of my commissionership, it is likely that it will be remembered as the major disaster on my watch. What I hope is that in the years to come I'll be judged on the whole of my term of office and not just on that single awful event." Sir Ian also used an interview with Radio 4's Today programme to criticise the decision by Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, not to fund the 2.5 per cent police pay deal. He said: "I think this is a mistake . . . because not enough notice has been taken of the special nature of policing in the sense that police officers don't have the right to strike."

The Chief Constables of Cambridgeshire and Essex have declined to distribute the Home Secretary's Christmas message to their officers. Essex Police chief Roger Baker said: "I feel that her message is not consistent with the decision over pay."

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cops Charged in Shooting were not even there

This sounds like a crazy lawsuit -- another example of blaming anybody but the person at fault

No one claims the police chief or his lieutenant fired a shot when officers gunned down a mentally unstable woman in the coastal Northern California city of Eureka last year. Yet they, not the officers who fired on her, are the ones charged with manslaughter in a case that has puzzled criminologists and law enforcement veterans, who say they've never heard of commanding officers having to defend themselves against criminal charges just for issuing orders. "It's a novel legal theory to indict people who didn't do something, particularly when they didn't say, 'Go ahead and shoot this woman,'" said David Klinger, a University of Missouri-St. Louis criminal justice professor who has studied police use of deadly force.

Chief David Douglas and Lt. Tony Zanotti were not part of the raid on Cheri Lyn Moore's apartment; they had been directing the tactical response from a command post elsewhere in the apartment complex. Both plan to plead not guilty to involuntary manslaughter when they're arraigned Feb. 21, said Bill Bragg, a lawyer for Douglas, who retired in October 2006, and Bill Rappaport, Zanotti's lawyer. If convicted, Douglas and Zanotti would face up to four years in prison. The officers who fired the shots have not been charged.

The indictments announced last week against the two commanders remains sealed. Humboldt County prosecutors could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press and have said little publicly about the since the day it happened.

On April 14, 2006, Moore was grieving the one-year anniversary of her son's death and began suffering a "mental health crisis" and called Humboldt County's mental health services line, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by another son. Police soon arrived at her apartment in Eureka, a remote city of 26,000 in the heart of California redwood country, but the welfare check turned into a standoff when she would not answer the door. The 48-year-old grandmother brandished a flare gun from her second-story window, threw clothes into the street and threatened to burn down the building, according to police. "She was an immediate threat to human life, to the building, to the officers, and to civilians surrounding that area," Zanotti testified at a September inquest into Moore's death.

After two hours, she was seen putting the gun down, and officers stormed the apartment. Moore was brought down by nine shots fired from a shotgun and an assault rifle; officers said she pointed the flare gun at them. She died at the scene.

Key to the manslaughter case against Douglas and Zanotti is whether their decision to send in a SWAT team showed judgment so poor that it amounts to criminal negligence. "It's pretty clear from the evidence that the problem came from the order to go into the apartment," said Gordon Kaupp, a San Francisco attorney representing the son in the wrongful death suit, filed in May. "The cops here knew she had a mental health history and chose to ignore (that)." Crisis negotiators should have had more time, and police should have used non-lethal weapons to subdue Moore, according to her son and mental health advocates.

Law enforcement groups and lawyers defending the officers argue that finding the commanding officers criminally liable for the split-second decisions they make in unpredictable and potentially violent situations could seriously hinder police. "It gives one pause to think what this most extreme kind of second-guessing will do to chill their willingness to keep facing those dangers for us," Eureka City Attorney Sheryl Schaffner wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. Her office is overseeing the officers' defense in the civil case.

Even Ira Blatt, president of the Humboldt County chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, conceded that by the time police showed up at Moore's apartment, it might have been too late for a peaceful resolution. "I know that the police oftentimes get blamed when what you have is a failure of the mental health system," said Blatt, who believes Moore's death could have been avoided if she'd had better, more consistent access to treatment. "Law enforcement first responders have a very difficult job."

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Australia: Just one year in jail for the anal rape of a child??

Because the kid is black???

TWO adults and two teenagers will each spend between one and 15 months behind bars for sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy at a remote Top End Aboriginal community. Rejecting pleas for wholly suspended sentences, Northern Territory Supreme Court judge Trevor Riley yesterday described the anal penetration of the boy between April and August last year at Maningrida, 500km east of Darwin, as "opportunistic" rather than predatory.

However, he said the males had taken advantage of the young victim, who was assaulted on three separate occasions at the community, as he sentenced the four offenders to a total of 32 months in custody. "The future of the victim remains uncertain and of significant concern," Justice Riley said.

The Territory's top prosecutor, Richard Coates, yesterday attributed the reluctance of Aboriginal children to give evidence as an explanation for the decision by the Crown not to pursue more serious rape charges, which could have led to jail terms of 20 years or life. The four offenders pleaded guilty to a total of eight charges, including sexual intercourse without consent. Justice Riley said he would have imposed higher sentences if they had claimed innocence.

The revelations in The Australian last week that nine males who gang-raped a 10-year-old girl in the Queensland Aboriginal community of Aurukun had escaped jail sentences has triggered nationwide debate about indigenous justice. Unlike the Aurukun gang-rape case, Justice Riley rejected pleas from defence lawyers to impose wholly suspended sentences on the offenders. But the sentences were still criticised as inadequate. "For Centrelink fraud and property damage, they'll send people to jail for three times that," Queensland indigenous human rights activist Gracelyn Smallwood said. "We've got to start getting serious about sexual abuse right across the country."

Indigenous activist Boni Robertson said it was important that courts sent a message to thepublic that sexual intercourse with children could not be tolerated. "And why did they call it sexual assault and not rape?" she said. "There's a responsibility to send a message that if you are going to interfere with a child then you are going to face the sternest wrath of the law."

Child sexual assault advocate Hetty Johnston said the sentences appeared to treat abuse as a "misdemeanour". "The length of time they're in jail is not as important as knowing whether they have had time to complete a treatment program and knowing whether they are safe to be released," she said.

The victim of the Maningrida assault has been living in Darwin since charges were laid last year. The court heard yesterday that he could be blamed in the community for any sentence imposed on his abusers. "The boys did bad things to me," he said in his victim impact statement.

Claevon Cooper, 20, was sentenced to three years and nine months behind bars, suspended after 15 months. Isiah Pascoe, also 20, was sentenced to two years and eight months, suspended after 10 months. An 18-year-old boy was sentenced to two years and six months in jail, suspended after six months. Justice Riley ordered a 14-year-old boy who breached bail conditions earlier this year to spend eight months in juvenile detention - suspended after one month - for gross indecency. The judge did not record a conviction against the fifth offender, 17, who fondled the victim's buttocks, instead imposing a 12-month good behaviour bond. He acknowledged defence claims that pornographic movies had influenced the behaviour of the males, but said: "Those matters do not excuse or justify what took place."

Mr Coates said the NT Director of Public Prosecutions had opted for section 127 of the Criminal Code, which made it unlawful for anyone to engage in sexual intercourse or gross indecency involving a child under 16 years. This did not require the Crown to prove the victim consented to intercourse, unlike section 192 which attracts a possible life penalty for sexual assault without consent. In 2006-07, the DPP laid 30 charges under section 127. Mr Coates conceded the reluctance of indigenous children to testify may be responsible for more lenient sentences than would have otherwise been the case. "With this charge, consent is not an element of the offence," he said. "The child is incapable at law of consenting. The prosecution do not have to prove a lack of consent to prove the charge."

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Police misconduct increasing

Federal prosecutors are targeting a rising number of law enforcement officers for alleged brutality, Justice Department statistics show. The heightened prosecutions come as the nation's largest police union fears that agencies are dropping standards to fill thousands of vacancies and "scrimping" on training. Cases in which police, prison guards and other law enforcement authorities have used excessive force or other tactics to violate victims' civil rights have increased 25% (281 vs. 224) from fiscal years 2001 to 2007 over the previous seven years, the department says. During the same period, the department says it won 53% more convictions (391 vs. 256). Some cases result in multiple convictions.

Federal records show the vast majority of police brutality cases referred by investigators are not prosecuted. University of Toledo law professor David Harris, who analyzes police conduct issues, says it will take time to determine whether the cases represent a sustained period of more aggressive prosecutions or the beginnings of a surge in misconduct.

The cases involve only a fraction of the estimated 800,000 police in the USA, says James Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the nation's largest police union. Even so, he says, the FOP is concerned that reduced standards, training and promotion of less experienced officers into the higher police ranks could undermine more rigid supervision. "These are things we are worried about," Pasco says.

For the past few years, dozens of police departments across the country have scrambled to fill vacancies. The recruiting effort, which often features cash bonuses, has intensified since 9/11, because many police recruits have been drawn to military service.

In its post-Sept. 11 reorganization, the FBI listed police misconduct as one of its highest civil rights priorities to keep pace with an anticipated increase in police hiring through 2009. The increasing Justice numbers generally correspond to a USA TODAY analysis of federal law enforcement prosecutions using data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Those data show 42 law enforcement prosecutions during the first 10 months of fiscal year 2007, a 66% increase from all of fiscal 2002 and a 61% rise from a decade ago.

David Burnham, the co-founder of the TRAC database, says prosecutions appear to be increasing, but "more important" are the numbers of cases prosecutors decline. Last year, 96% of cases referred for prosecution by investigative agencies were declined. In 2005, 98% were declined, a rate that has remained "extremely high" under every administration dating to President Carter, according to a TRAC report. The high refusal rates, say Burnham and law enforcement analysts, result in part from the extraordinary difficulty in prosecuting abuse cases. Juries are conditioned to believe cops, and victims' credibility is often challenged. "When police are accused of wrongdoing, the world is turned upside down," Harris says. "In some cases, it may be impossible for (juries) to make the adjustment."

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Medical school grad's suit accuses S.F. police of roughing him up

A recent graduate of UCSF Medical School has filed a $1 million federal civil rights suit accusing San Francisco police of roughing him up and injuring his shoulder as he was tinkering with a car near an auto repair shop. The confrontation forced Edward Yamoah, who is now a resident intern at a Houston-area hospital, to undergo surgery on a torn rotator cuff, said the suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. "This is a wonderful man who is doing everything possible to be a good citizen, and yet he gets treated in the most outrageous manner possible," Yamoah's attorney, John Burris of Oakland, said Tuesday. "He was dehumanized, and his career as a surgeon was really threatened."

A city attorney's spokesman was unavailable for comment Tuesday night. The city has not yet responded in court to the suit, which names Police Chief Heather Fong and officers Kevin Healy, 36, Jason Kristal, 28, Robert Doss, 49, and Jon Kasper, 34.

Yamoah, 33, said he had a flashlight and was putting oil into the engine of a used Acura on the night of Dec. 28, 2006, near Emerald Auto near 12th Avenue and Judah Street in the city's Inner Sunset district. The car had been towed to the shop after hours with the owner's permission, and Yamoah had hoped to use the car for spare parts to repair a second vehicle, the suit said. As Yamoah was working on the Acura, Healy and Kasper got out of a police car and told him to "shut up" after he greeted them, the suit said. It wasn't clear why the officers chose to approach Yamoah.

Yamoah told the officers that the Acura was his car and that he lived nearby, but Kasper pushed him against the vehicle and "applied a painful amount of pressure" to his elbow, the suit said. The pushing was allegedly so severe it caused an ink-stamp in Yamoah's shirt to break. Yamoah yelled that the officer was hurting him but got no response, the suit said. Without provocation, Kasper kicked Yamoah in the right leg and told him that he was "just doing my job" when Yamoah asked why he was kicked, the suit said.

Kristal arrived on scene and punched Yamoah in the chest with a closed fist, the suit said. Yamoah asked why he did this, and Kristal replied, "because I want to," the suit said. Police walked Yamoah to a nearby home that he was moving out of and let him go when a roommate told them that he recognized Yamoah, the suit said.

Doss falsely stated in his police report that Yamoah was "litigious, threatening and hysterical," the suit said. Doss wrote that Yamoah "wanted to speak with his attorney because he wanted to get paid for this incident," the suit said. Yamoah denied making such a statement.

Yamoah was not charged with a crime. The suit alleges assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. The suit also alleges that the officers were motivated by "racial prejudice" because Yamoah is African American.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Freedom for Kenny Richey at last

With a face-saver for the predatory authoritis so he can't sue them for millions. See my post of July 12, 2005 for more background

A US-British citizen who spent 20 years on death row in the US before his murder conviction was overturned has agreed to a plea deal that will allow him to walk free, his lawyer said. Ken Richey will enter a plea on Thursday and return to his native Scotland on Friday, Ken Parsigian told the Lima News.

Richey, 43, was convicted of setting a fire that killed a two-year-old girl in 1986 and spent 20 years on death row until a federal appeals court in August overturned his conviction, arguing that his lawyers mishandled his case. The court ordered he be retried or set free. The state was set to try him again in March.

Instead, he will plead no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter, child endangering and breaking and entering, and be sentenced to time already served, Parsigian said. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is treated as such by the courts.

His case has received wide coverage in Britain, and he has drawn support from members of the British Parliament and the late Pope John Paul II. He was nearly out of appeals until the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals court ordered a new trial. The court said expert testimony could have contended that the fire was not intentionally set.

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Jurors question dubious British verdict

After a parade of overconfident and wrong "experts", it is about time

The role of expert witnesses in baby death trials was called dramatically into question last night after two jurors spoke out to challenge the conviction of a childminder for killing a baby in her care. Senior judges and law officers faced calls yesterday for a fresh review of the role of expert witnesses in baby-death cases.

In an unprecedented move, the jurors disputed the recent conviction of Keran Henderson 42, a mother of two married to a former police officer, for shaking 11-month-old Maeve Sheppard so violently that the baby was left blind and irreparably brain-damaged. She died days later.

The jury foreman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has told The Times that he believes Mrs Henderson is innocent. “A case relying on circumstantial evidence and forensic opinion based on evidential proof from other cases should never have reached a court.”

The case comes amid increasing concern over cases involving baby deaths that turn on the evidence of medical experts. Sally Clark, Angela Cannings and Trupti Patel were all accused of killing their children, only later to be found innocent.

John Hemming, MP, the chairman of Justice for Families, called yesterday on the Lord Chief Justice and Attorney-General to set up a fresh inquiry into the way that courts use medical expert evidence. “Jurors think that Keran Henderson is innocent,” he said. “When we are asking medical expert witnesses to diagnose innocence or guilt, we need more certainty than is the case for most medical treatment — a false diagnosis of guilt can generally cause far more damage than a false medical diagnosis.”

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